MEETING REPORT: Peterborough Panthers are kings of the jungle after winning a big cat battle
Peterborough Panthers boosted their claims to be kings of the SGB Championship jungle yesterday (June 10) - by winning a brilliant battle of the big cats.
The city men turned an early six-point deficit - and four-point arrears at two-thirds distance - into an eight-point triumph when seeing off Glasgow Tigers 49-41 in a thriller at the East of England Arena.
It completed an excellent few days after Panthers picked up a consolation point in the reverse fixture last Friday (June 8) with their gains against Glasgow launching them back into second place in the second-tier standings.
It could be argued the final outcome yesterday was both fortunate and flattering given the visitors were beset by a series of mishaps in the closing races, but there is little room for sentiment in this exhilarating world of motorcycle racing.
Panthers team boss Carl Johnson said: “We’ve had plenty of things go against us over the years so we’re not going to complain about having a bit of luck on our side for a change.
“There was a big crowd in and they saw some great racing with us getting the result we wanted.
“I don’t mind admitting that I expected Glasgow to get a point here just as we did up at their place - so the fact they went away with nothing made it an even better day.
“We were slow to start the meeting and that’s something we need to look at. I think the boys were worried about the track but once they realised it wasn’t bad they got themselves going.
“To come from behind twice against a side of Glasgow’s quality is very pleasing and it’s another important result to keep us in the right part of the table.”
Panthers were punished for making slow starts in their first home outing for three weeks as Glasgow took command with a series of three advantages in the opening four races.
The visitors’ early dominance was only interrupted by a 4-2 in heat two which was inspired by a success from impressive Panthers captain Simon Lambert.
But the hosts soon upped their level of performance to wipe out their arrears in the space of two races.
Bradley Wilson-Dean picked himself up off the deck to lead home Michael Palm Toft for a 5-1 in a heat five re-run before number one Scott Nicholls and debutant Ellis Perks bagged a 4-2 in the next contest.
Perks looked a potentially useful addition despite only having raced in a couple of meetings in Australia this year and only having touched down on these shores on Friday.
A fine solo ride from Ulrich Ostergaard in heat seven (after reserve Tom Bacon crashed heavily to earn an exclusion in the initial staging) before Lambert and Perks packed the minor places in heat eight kept the sides level, but back-to-back 4-2s from Glasgow in the ninth and 10th instalments again left Panthers with work to do.
However, things changed quickly as the city men delivered a late power surge when taking advantage of a series of Glasgow setbacks.
Visiting number one Richie Worrall was hit by bike gremlins when leading on the final lap of heat 11 as what looked set to be a Tigers 4-2 turned into the same outcome in Panthers’ favour.
Wilson-Dean and Lambert both roared past Glasgow reserve Jack Thomas - who was forced to pull up with bike damage following a forceful move from the latter - to claim a 5-1 in the next race before another one followed in heat 13.
Worrall retired at the tapes before Chris Harris suffered bike issues which allowed Ostergaard through into second place to follow home winner Nicholls.
Harris, a Fours and KO Cup winner with Panthers last season, was then deployed as a tactical substitute in the penultimate race, but was powerless to prevent the hosts from wrapping up victory.
Palm Toft pulled clear of the Glasgow man to triumph in a re-run after another member of Panthers’ trophy-winning side of 2017, Paul Starke, tumbled out of the initial staging.
Harris had been ahead at the time of that spill entering lap three but referee Mick Bates demanded a re-run rather than awarding the result.
Glasgow were still able to claim a consolation point in the finale, but Nicholls ensured that didn’t happen by keeping Harris and Claus Vissing at bay after Ostergaard suffered a snapped chain at the start.
That capped a blistering display from the 40 year-old Panthers man and proved he will be a live contender for an eighth national title in the British Final tonight (June 11) at the National Speedway Stadium, Manchester.
PANTHERS: Scott Nicholls 12, Ulrich Ostergaard 10+1, Simon Lambert 9+1, Michael Palm Toft 9+1, Bradley Wilson-Dean 6, Ellis Perks 2+1, Tom Bacon 1.
GLASGOW: Chris Harris 13, Lewis Kerr 9, Claus Vissing 8+1, Paul Starke 5+1, Jack Thomas 3, Richie Worrall 2+1, James Sarjeant 1.